Al Qaeda rising? Making sense of the embassy plot
About This Event

Event Summary

Does al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula retain the capabilities to pose a serious threat to the United States and its allies? On Tuesday, AEI's Danielle Pletka and Katherine Zimmerman were joined by Georgetown University's Bruce Hoffman to discuss the current composition and goals of al Qaeda in the context of recently intercepted communications between al Qaeda's core leadership and its Yemeni affiliate.

Hoffman argued that the terrorist organization has gained momentum in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, carving out sanctuaries to plan operations, learning from mistakes in Iraq, and positioning itself as the vanguard of the Syrian revolution. Zimmerman observed that while the al Qaeda core may be weakened, it remains connected to its Middle East and North African affiliates.

Pletka then transitioned to a discussion of al Qaeda's motives, asking whether the al Qaeda network intentionally leaked information about a planned attack to test the American response. Hoffman concluded that the war on terror has transitioned to a new phase that will require action against an increasingly threatening group of enemies united by a common ideology.
--Zach Huffman

Event Description

Intercepted communications between the head of al Qaeda in Pakistan and the leader of the group’s Yemeni affiliate revealed one of the most serious plots against Western interests since 9/11, prompting an unusual global travel alert and the closure of nearly two dozen US diplomatic missions across the Middle East. Although the target of the planned attack remains unknown, the captured intelligence suggests that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula still has the capabilities to pose a serious threat to the United States and its allies.

Tune in to this Google Hangout conversation among al Qaeda experts from AEI and Georgetown University as they discuss the terrorism threat and the implications for the war on terror.

This event will be livestreamed.



1:45 PM
Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown University
Danielle Pletka, AEI
Katherine Zimmerman, AEI

2:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Stephan Burklin at, 202.862.7152.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact, 202.862.5829.

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AEI Participants



  • As a long-time Senate Committee on Foreign Relation senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia, Danielle Pletka was the point person on Middle East, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan issues. As the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka writes on national security matters with a focus on Iran and weapons proliferation, the Middle East, Syria, Israel and the Arab Spring. She also studies and writes about South Asia: Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

    Pletka is the co-editor of “Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats” (AEI Press, 2008) and the co-author of “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran” (AEI Press, 2011) and “Iranian influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (AEI Press, 2012). Her most recent study, “America vs. Iran: The competition for the future of the Middle East,” was published in January 2014.


    Follow Danielle Pletka on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5943
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alexandra Della Rocchetta
    Phone: 202-862-7152


  • Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst and the al Qaeda and Associated Movements Team Lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. Her work has focused on al Qaeda’s affiliates in the Gulf of Aden region and associated movements in western and northern Africa. She specializes in the Yemen-based group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab. Katherine has testified in front of Congress and briefed Members and congressional staff, as well as members of the defense community. She has written analyses of U.S. national security interests related to the threat from the al Qaeda network for the Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and the Huffington Post, among others. Katherine graduated with distinction from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science and Modern Middle East Studies.


    Follow Katherine Zimmerman on Twitter.

  • Phone: (202) 828-6023
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